Author's Note: Again, life gets in the way of writing. I was really busy with school and now I'm really busy with work and there are personal things going on in my life that make using what little time I do have to concentrate on writing hard. Not to mention that this laptop rarely gets internet anymore. A new one has been ordered. I did read the entire Hunger Games series tho…

I hope you enjoy the chapter nonetheless.

-SQ

Disclaimer: The only thing I claim is to be lousy at updating

Chapter Forty-nine: Ritual

Holly flew toward the only river bend within the area of South African land now owned by Artemis Fowl, following the map the boy had sent to her helmet screen. Technically the human should not have had access to that program, but Holly was long past questioning the coulds and shoulds of Artemis's doings so long as they didn't hurt anyone. Well, anyone who didn't deserve it, anyway. In truth, the "river" wasn't a proper river at all, with a name and a place on the map, but more of a stream. It was the best the team could do under the circumstances, though, and Artemis, Trouble, and Foaly had concluded that keeping within the safe zone (aka Artemis's property or, as it was to be officially known the Fowl Nature Preserve) was more important than planting the acorn beside an officially sanctioned river.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, Holly tilted her head up to the sky and caught sight of the moon through the trees. It was round and full; somehow, even with all the Council's nit picking and foot dragging, Artemis had done it again. Honestly, sometimes she didn't know whether she wanted to kiss him or knock some sense into that over-inflated head of his.

"Holly." Speak of the devil. "Holly."

"Yes, yes, I hear you," said Holly into her helmet mic.

"You're right above the location," said Artemis's voice in her ear. "Can you see it?"

Holly looked downwards through the night vision filter in her visor. "Yup, I see it," she confirmed, angling downward toward the spot.

"You almost flew right over it," said Artemis, a slight chastisement in his voice. "Something else on your mind?"

"No," snapped Holly, going red as Artemis chuckled. "Shut up so I can perform the Ritual."

"Yes, Captain."

Holly grunted into her microphone and landed, kneeling on the soft, moonlit earth. She had been running on No1's special cocktail since emptying herself of her magic on her last visit to South Africa and she couldn't wait to have her own magic coursing through her veins once more.

She inhaled the warm, moonlit air and spoke the ancient words of the power renewing Ritual:

"From the earth thine power flows,

Given through courtesy to thanks are owed.

Pluck thou the magic seed,

Where full moon, ancient oak, and twisted water meet.

And bury it far from where it was found,

So return your gift into the ground."

Holly pressed the acorn into the hollow she had dug with her finger, brushing a layer of dirt on top of it. She felt a strange pang of loss at the release of the seed, which was almost immediately replaced with a flood of magic so strong it knocked her flat on her back. For several minutes Holly was aware of nothing but the heat of the magic coursing from the soft earth and into her small body, fixing her limbs to the ground, her eyes unseeingly to the heavens.

"Oof," she said when she finally got her breath back. She sat up, gingerly flexing her fingers and toes to make sure they were still there and under her control. When she had affirmed that they were all in working order, she turned her head to call up her newly renewed magic—and yelped aloud when a handful of electric blue sparks shot from her fingertips, nearly singing her own nose; power tree magic packed quite a punch, it seemed.

As the ringing in her ears abated, Holly slowly became aware of an urgent voice in her head. She wondered briefly if the fall had knocked her silly until she remembered her earpiece and realized that the voice was not her own.

"Holly? Holly, can you hear me? Holly!"

"Keep your shirt on, Mud Boy, I can hear you," said Holly.

On the other end of the line, the human youth breathed a sigh of relief. "What happened? We lost contact for a couple minutes."

"The magic must have shorted out the circuits," said Holly, standing up and checking herself for injury; any damage from the fall seemed to have been corrected by the magic from the Ritual, however. "Apparently Power Tree Rituals provide magic with an extra zing."

A pause on the other end of the line, just long enough to be noticeable, then, "So it worked? The Ritual?"

"Looks like it," confirmed Holly. "I'm running so hot I feel like I could take on a bull troll empty-handed."

"Let's not put that to the test," said Artemis hastily. He and Holly had had a few too many first-hand encounters with trolls; of course, as far as Artemis was concerned, any number of encounters was too many when it came to trolls.

Holly laughed. She felt better than she had in weeks, maybe months, hell probably years. She activated her wings and rose up into the air, face tilted upwards to drink in the moonlight. She turned a loop, two, three rising ever upward in a dizzying spiral. Powerful magic buzzed through her veins, making her feel a decade younger than she had mere minutes ago. Full of vim and vigor and the desire to fly right back to Artemis and—

SCREEEEEEEECH! Those would be the brakes slamming on in Holly's magic-intoxicated brain. For surely it must have been the magic which had caused her to imagine that when they hadn't even—Holly shook herself.

"I'm headed back."

"Copy that," said Artemis. "Do you need me to send the map again?"

"No, everything's still here, and I think I remember the way anyway. My brain hasn't been that rattled."

"I never said it had been," said Artemis, nonplussed. "Has it?"

"No," said Holly, and turned her focus to flying. And if the route she took back was a little more circuitous than usual, well, she had some urges to work off.

*****RTR*****

When Holly landed back in the clearing several minutes later, Artemis allowed his shoulders to relax a fraction. Although logically he knew Holly was more than capable of handling herself in much more dangerous situations than this, and historically Artemis had been a hindrance at least as much as he had been a help, the memories of their last visit to South Africa were too strong to let him breathe easily while the elf was out of his sight. Holly seemed to recognize this, because as she landed beside him, she gave his shoulder a soft punch and his cheek a kiss.

"If you were any stiffer I'd think you'd been turned to stone in my absence."

Artemis offered her a tight smile. "I may own this piece of land, but I will be happy to manage it from afar from now on."

Holly's fingers tightened on his arm just enough to convey that the number of words in that sentence had registered with her.

Artemis laid his other hand over hers. "I'm alright, just ready to wrap up this mission."

Holly nodded. "I think we can do that. The Ritual is complete, I'm running as hot as I ever have, I think we can call this one a success." She grinned at her boyfriend, whose smile widened.

"Now there's just one think left to decide." Holly looked at him quizzically. Artemis motioned to the bound Flaxel Cusp. "What to do with this."

Holly snorted. "I suppose it would be discourteous to just leave him here." Cusp nodded emphatically. "After all, we have no quarrel with the locals." This elicited chuckles from both Artemis and Trouble.

"I suppose we'll have to take him with us, then," said Trouble in a long-suffering voice.

"At least once we get back he will be the Council's problem and not ours," said Artemis pragmatically.

"You underestimate the Council's capacity for causing headaches, Mud Boy," said the commander.

Even so, Trouble unbound Cusp and prodded him into a seat in the shuttle in between himself and the Butler siblings. Holly took the pilot's seat and Artemis the copilot's and they flew back to Haven with no more issue than Cusp's constant mutterings about what he was going to put in his report to the Council.

The first thing the team did when they arrived back in Haven, after 0dlivering Cusp and a report to the Council, was to go to the hospital to have Holly examined, although she insisted she was fine, had never been better. Once both the doctor and No1 had given Holly a clean bill of health, there was an awkward flurry of goodbyes, and then Holly and Artemis were once more alone in Holly's flat. Artemis sank exhaustedly down onto the sofa.

"Arty?"

He opened his eyes. "Yes?"

"Are you feeling okay?"

"Just tired," he assured her. "The South African climate and I do not agree." He looked down at his sun-pinked skin distastefully and Holly chuckled.

"Budge over," she said, taking a seat next to him. He obliged, lifting his arm and placing it around her shoulders. Holly smiled and snuggled contentedly into his side, inhaling the scene that was at once undeniably Mud Man and distinctly Artemis.

Artemis ruined the moment by reaching for his computer.

"Artemis," Holly groaned.

"Just to check my email," the boy protested.

The elf rolled her eyes but knew better than to argue.

"I have an email from my mother," said Artemis after another minute, "asking when I will be coming home."

"Oh," said Holly after a very tense moment.

"She knows I have been discharged from the hospital."

"Yes," said Holly, "but the Atlantis hasn't been fully cured." They both knew without her having to say it that she was referring to the earlier moment in Africa.

"Holly," said Artemis slowly, "there is no 'fully cured.' Atlantis is a mental illness, I could always exhibit slight symptoms, or I could go years symptom free only to suffer a relapse from an unexpected trigger. But I'll have access to the best psychiatrists both on and within the earth. I am well enough to go home."

"I should be happy," said Holly. "This is what we've been working towards for so long."

"Yes," agreed Artemis, "you should be. Are you?"

"Yes," said Holly, and she meant it. "Yes, I'm thrilled, Arty." She wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing his jaw. "I told you you could do it." Her lips trailed down to his collar. "I'm just going to miss you."

Artemis hesitated. "Then come with me."

Holly pulled back sharply. "What?"

"Come with me," said the young man earnestly. "There's more than enough room, my family loves you—"

"Stop," said Holly harshly, pulling away farther. "Artemis, you know I can't come with you. I have a home here, a life, my job, friends… My staying above ground for an extended period of time would be a huge security risk—"

"I know," sighed Artemis, holding up his hand to halt her protests. "I didn't think you'd say yes, but I still had to offer."

"You could stay here…" said Holly hesitantly.

"You know I can't," said Artemis. "For all the reasons you just gave."

The two, human and elf, looked at each other for a long moment.

"I love you," said Holly finally.

The corners of Artemis's eyes, prematurely wrinkled, creased as he smiled. "I know."

"You cheeky little—"

"I love you too." He added hastily.

Holly continued to scowl at him, though the corners of her mouth were twitching slightly.

Artemis raised his eyebrows and ran the tip of his tongue between his teeth like he did when he was concentrating on a particularly tricky puzzle.

"When did I tell you I found that attractive?" spluttered Holly.

Artemis smirked. "Just now."

Holly glared harder.

Artemis shifted on the couch.

"What?"

"You're attractive when you pretend to be angry."

"Who said I was pretending?"

"Well, when you are actually angry you are dangerous, and I should hope that my sense of self-preservation is such that I do not become aroused by impeding harm to my person."

Holly was torn between amusement at the suddenly overly-formal speech and interest in what it and Artemis's carefully positioned crossed wrists were covering.

"Artemis, do you have an erection?" The teenager flushed slightly. Holly laughed. "Oh Arty, that's very flattering." She kissed him.

"It's not like it's the first time," he muttered in a slightly surly voice. "I am nearly sixteen. Nineteen, legally speaking."

"Good save," said Holly. She kissed him again, lingering inside his mouth. Who knew humans tasted this good? Well, this human at least, she still had serious doubts about the species at large and no plans to assuage them.

Artemis's hand went to Holly's still close-cropped, but now-uniform auburn hair, his other arm wrapping around her waist. She moved her lips to his neck, unbuttoning the top button of his shirt for better access. Artemis made a sound in his throat.

"Too much?" asked Holly. She and Artemis were still taking things slowly on the physical level. Frustratingly slowly it seemed to Holly at times—Artemis wasn't her first boyfriend, after all. But other times she remembered Aura and all they had gone through to get to this point (not to mention Artemis's age) and was glad for the slow pace.

Artemis shook his head. "N-no." He ran his hand down her arm, entwining their fingers.

She pressed him gently back against the couch, kneeling on his thighs to give herself better access to his pale neck. Artemis gasped as her knee brushed his most sensitive area. "Holly…"

Holly swallowed back her own jolt at the contact; apparently the 'extra benefits' of the Power Tree magic had not entirely worn off. To her surprise, however, the next words out of Artemis's mouth were, "Don't stop."

She looked at the human youth beneath her. "Gods, I love you," she breathed, and connected herself to him both with her mouth and her hand, the hunger of her lips and tongue at odds with the gently touch of her fingers against the front of his trousers. Artemis's own fingers trailed gently over her chest, stiffening slightly when she touched a sweet spot.

"Relax," she murmured against his jaw.

"How can I relax when you're…?"

Holly shifted so her own pelvis was pressed against his, her face nuzzled into his stomach. Artemis shuddered. "Holly…" he said again.

She lifted her head and rolled off of him. His expression was pained. She kissed his now fully exposed chest. "Go take a shower and then come to bed."

Artemis nodded and rose stiffly from the couch. "I love you," he told the literally inhumanly beautiful woman watching him leave the room.

And it was Holly's turn to say, "I know."

AN: I'll never be able to please everyone. Some won't like that there is anything sexual shown between Holly and Artemis, some won't think it's nearly enough. I'm not trying to compromise between the two sides; I'm just trying to stay true to my story. Hopefully someone besides myself and my characters will be pleased. Thanks for reading and I do hope you review :)

-SQ